Winter in northern Europe can feel like it drags on and on. With the excitement of Christmas over, Spring can feel a long way off. And, with more clement weather only beginning to appear in places like the UK come early May, it’s understandable that you might want to book a week or two away to enjoy some spring weather sooner rather than later!
Provence in March is the perfect choice for an early Spring holiday with temperatures already starting to hit 15C and the days rapidly lengthening offering a perfect escape from winter!
There is so much to see and do at this special time of year. That ‘spring’ feeling is everywhere and hinted at wherever you go with flowers beginning to bud, an uptick in wildlife and that unmistakable scent of freshness in the air. And, as a bonus, you get to enjoy Provence without sharing it with the summertime crowds. Because your visit is also out of peak season, hotels, flights and car hire can all be significantly cheaper, and availability tends to be much greater which means more choice for you, especially if you book at this time of year.
In fact, I’d strongly suggest booking your March holiday in Provence sooner rather than later… there is nothing quite like the feeling of having a holiday on the horizon in the diary to help keep your spirits up at this time of year!
Let’s take a look at a few highlights and things for you to do at this time of year!
Provence can get hot during the summer. Really hot! The heat is wonderful and allows for lazy days on the beach and the acquisition of a wonderful suntan. It’s not however ideal for activities that involve hard physical work. As such, March offers an ideal opportunity to do all the things that you wouldn’t want to do in the heat of a Provence summer like extended hikes around some fabulous areas of the region.
I have two favourite spots to hike. The Calanques and the Gorges du Verdon. The Calanques extend south from Marseille and run along the coast. They are a series of inlets, steep sides valley’s and hidden coves that, due to fire risk, can be closed during the summer months. Truly stunning, if you’re into hiking you could build an entire holiday around hiking this region. Equally impressive is the Gorges du Verdon, this river canyon is considered to be on of Europe’s most beautiful. There are hundreds of routes to hike but with climbs of 700 metres or more you’ll be pleased to be walking the region in the comparative cool of a March spring day.
White water rafting
Thrill-seekers flock to the Ubaye Valley region during spring to make the most of the incredible white water rafting opportunities available from late March thanks to the rivers that become swollen with spring snow meltwater.
Don’t worry if you’ve never white water rafted before. There are different levels of ‘runs’ available depending on experience. Not only are you in for an exciting ride across turbulent rapids but you’ll get to see the countryside from a whole different angle, much of it inaccessible from roads. Just make sure you wear the wet suits provided… the water is seriously chilly at this time of year!
Bird watching in the Carmargue
You may well have heard of the Carmargue… a World Heritage site and home to an incredible array of wildlife including the world-famous Carmargue Horses. It’s at this time of year though that bird watching can be hugely rewarding by offering a chance to see early returning migrants such as White Storks, Stone-curlews and Hoopoes.
Not only that but you’ll be able to catch the best of the Carmargues winter birds before they disperse for the summer such as Black-necked Grebes, Cormorants, Red-crested Pochard and other waterfowl which gather on the vast Etang de Vaccares, which lies at the heart of the reserve. Just don’t forget to pack your binoculars!
Whilst it might be a bit nippy for swimming, March offers a great chance to get out on the water with conditions often proving ideal.
In addition, don’t miss Les Nauticales, one of the first major boat shows of the year. With 30,000 visitors annually and 200 exhibitors, if you’re into boats it’s not to be missed! The upcoming show is being held between the 14th and 22nd March 2020.
Food and drink
A trip to Provence just wouldn’t be a trip to Provence without making sure you include a food element to it! Fortunately, March offers all manner of gastronomic delights to enjoy. If you’re quick you’ll be able to catch the end of the back truffle season. These are wonderful grated over an omelette. You’ll want to make sure you buy some to take home with you as well. The market stalls are beginning to get loaded with early season produce.
Wine is also most definitely on the agenda during March with the nationwide Foires aux Vins running during March. This is the perfect time to get your cellar replenished after a thirsty festive season with heavily discounted bottles on sale throughout this period.
Provence really starts to come to life during March. Aside from the activities listed above, there is loads to see and do. Museums to enjoy, beautiful towns like Aix en Provence to explore, beaches to walk and restaurants to sample to name but a handful!
With a Vitamin D boost you’ll leave feeling refreshed and invigorated and ready to make the absolute most of the upcoming Spring and Summer. I suspect that you’ll also want to get some new dates in the diary to pop back and enjoy another holiday in the Summer months as well. Provence is totally seductive during the Spring… you have been warned!
Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.